What Is a Psychopath? (plus a New Release & Giveaway)

by Kassandra Lamb

Today is Veterans Day–a day set aside to honor those who have served in the military to protect our country. I don’t think there are enough words in the English language to express how grateful we should be to military personnel today.

female soldier saluting

They are facing a new breed of enemy that may very well be the most evil our world has produced to date. When I watch the news reports about ISIS and other groups like them, I shudder.

These are not religious fanatics. These are psychopaths using religion to justify their sick actions. They exhibit all the signs of psychopaths. Indeed, they are on the extreme end of the continuum and have many things in common with serial killers.

Here are some of the characteristics of psychopaths:

Psychopaths lack empathy for their fellow human beings. The smarter ones may become quite skilled at reading people’s emotions for the purpose of manipulating them, but they feel little or no concern or sympathy for others.

Psychopaths have no conscience. They intellectually understand what the rules are but have no qualms about breaking them. They don’t feel remorse or guilt.

Psychopaths are constantly seeking thrills. They have a very high arousal threshold, i.e., they inherit a nervous system that is not easily stimulated. It takes a huge amount of stimulation for them to feel excitement, or any feeling at all. Everyday life, that most of us find quite satisfying, bores them and leaves them feeling dead inside.

So while the rest of us are seeking ways to relax from the stress of daily life, they are constantly engaging in extremely stimulating activities just to feel alive. They drive recklessly, drink heavily and use drugs, seek power over others, commit crimes and are violent and sexually aggressive.

Gerard John Schaefer (note that he is smiling in a mug shot!) boasted privately of murdering over 30 women and girls. He was a deputy sheriff at the time of his arrest.

Gerard John Schaefer (note that he is smiling in a mug shot!) boasted privately of murdering over 30 women and girls. He was a deputy sheriff at the time of his arrest.

Psychopaths feel little or no fear. Since it takes a tremendous amount of stimulation for them to feel anything, they don’t feel afraid when the rest of us would. The situation’s got to be pretty damn terrifying before they feel even a flicker of fear.

So they don’t fear going to jail, or even dying. Indeed, some view dying as the ultimate thrill! And they can pass lie-detector tests with flying colors, while lying through their teeth. Those tests are based on the premise that people are anxious when they lie. Not psychopaths! They’re not afraid of getting caught in a lie, because they’re not afraid of much of anything.

You see why I’m equating them with ISIS. *shudder*

Later this month, I’ll explore the origins of this pathology in a post here, and on December 2nd I’ll be talking more about serial killers on Marcy Kennedy’s blog.

Today, I want to dispel several myths about psychopaths.

One is that they are often brilliant. Nope. They run the gamut from stupid to brilliant, just like the rest of us. The dumb ones engage in high risk behaviors and criminal activities early on. They either get killed or get caught and spend a lot of time in jail (although not all criminals are psychopaths, by any stretch).

The smarter ones become politicians, business executives, lawyers, cops, and con artists. They may be very successful in their chosen professions because they are quite ruthless; it doesn’t bother them a bit to climb over others to get to the top. Not all politicians and business executives are psychopaths, and definitely the vast majority of lawyers and police officers are not! But psychopaths can be attracted to law enforcement because of the power involved.

Another myth about psychopaths is that they are obvious monsters or highly dysfunctional loners. Some are the latter. Most are neither. They look like everybody else on the surface. They get married, hold down jobs, may even be civic or church leaders! They figure out how to fit in, but behind closed doors they are seeking those thrills, often in twisted ways.

 The BTK killer, Dennis Rader, killed ten victims in and around Wichita, Kansas. He sent sixteen written communications to the news media over a thirty-year period, taunting the police and the public. He was married with two children, was a Boy Scout leader, served honorably in the U.S. Air Force, was employed as a local government official, and was president of his church. –July, 2008, FBI symposium report on Serial Murder.

As mentioned before, the degree of psychopathic tendencies exists on a continuum. On the milder end, we have those who get their thrills through dangerous sports, drinking and using recreational drugs, and controlling their families. In the moderate range, we have more heavy-duty drug abuse, more violent behavior and more of a tendency to engage in criminal activity. Many rapists and a fair number of those more ruthless politicians and business executives are in this group.

On the severe end of the continuum, you have the very violent criminals (including more sadistic rapists), the totally ruthless business executives and politicians, and serial killers.

Psychopaths make up 3% of the male population and 1.8% of the females in this country. That’s three men out of every hundred, so you have probably known a few of them!

Why am I so obsessed with psychopaths these days, beyond the fact that they are gathering in the Middle East right now under the ISIS flag? My protagonist Kate Huntington is pitted against one in my new thriller, in which a serial killer kidnaps her friend and former boss, Sally Ford.

Please check out my new release, and then talk to me in the comments. Do you realize now that you’ve known some real psychopaths in your lifetime?  Oh, and be sure to enter the contest below as well!

book cover FATAL FORTY-EIGHT, A Kate Huntington Mystery

Celebration turns to nightmare when psychotherapist Kate Huntington’s guest of honor disappears en route to her own retirement party. Kate’s former boss, Sally Ford, has been kidnapped by a serial killer who holds his victims exactly forty-eight hours before killing them.

With time ticking away, the police allow Kate and her P.I. husband to help with the investigation. The FBI agents involved in the case have mixed reactions to the “civilian consultants.” The senior agent welcomes Kate’s assistance as he fine-tunes his psychological profile. His voluptuous, young partner is more by the book. While she locks horns out in the field with Kate’s husband, misunderstandings abound back at headquarters.

But they can ill afford these distractions. Sally’s time is about to expire.

Half price thru tomorrow ~ just $1.99 on  AMAZON   BARNES & NOBLE   KOBO   APPLE

And now for the contest:

silver charm

Are you feeling lucky? Sign up here to win a  prize! You can enter multiple times.

Win a $20 Amazon gift card, a silver charm or key chain (winner’s choice) and a signed paperback copy of any of the Kate Huntington full-length novels (again, winner’s choice).

key chain(If the winner is outside the U.S./Canada, a gift card of comparable value may be substituted.)

The contest runs through December 5th! The winner will be announced the following week.

Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    November 11, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Fascinating, scary stuff, Kass! I assume there is no reliable treatment for these people. Is it the medical consensus that psychopaths are born this way? From your description, it sounds like a brain-wiring thing.

    Congrats on your new release!

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    November 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks, Kathy! It’s part genetic, part environment, but yes, there’s some major disrupted wiring to begin with. I’m going to do a post in a couple weeks and talk about the causes some more.

  • Reply
    Shannon Esposito
    November 11, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    First, congrats on the new book release! I actually got to read this one ahead of time and you guys are going to love it… very suspenseful. Secondly, that stat of 3 out of 100 men makes me shudder. Probably accounts for a lot of the evil the world. I don’t know if I’d agree with all of ISIS being psychopaths, the leaders definitely. The followers I think are just in fear of their own lives or you know… being tortured and wishing they were dead.

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      November 11, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Good point, Shannon. Their leaders are definitely psychopaths, but I’m sure some of the followers start out at least thinking they are fighting for a just cause.

      Thanks for your kind words about the book!

  • Reply
    Vinnie Hansen
    November 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Fatal Forty-Eight is a thriller, folks!

    Great post, Kass. In my upcoming book, I created Eric Mars with the descriptors of a sociopath in mind, but he fits your description of a psychopath pretty well. What creates the distinction between a psychopath and a sociopath? And which do you think Eric Mars is?

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    November 11, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Actually, Vinnie, the two terms refer to the same thing. Sociopath was the first term used for such people. Psychopath replaced that term awhile back, but the general public still uses both. And then we have the term antisocial personality disorder which is the actual official diagnosis. Are we confused yet? 🙂

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      November 11, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      Oh and Eric Mars is definitely a psychopath/sociopath. He’s really creepy!

  • Reply
    Karen McFarland
    November 13, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Oh my gosh, that Dennis Radar scares me. I will say that it truly is a benefit to your Kassandra to have the background you have. Your characters have a lot to be thankful for. But as for me, you can have the psychopaths. Yikes! Congrats on your new book my friend! I’ve tweeted and shared! 🙂

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      November 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Yeah, he’s mega creepy! I don’t mind writing about psychopaths but I try to avoid them in real life. The problem is that they’re pretty good at disguising themselves as normal people.

      Thanks so much for helping to spread the word, Karen! You’re a sweetie!!

  • Reply
    Marcy Kennedy
    November 14, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I’m really looking forward to your post on my site. I love the thriller, mystery, and suspense genres, so the truth behind some of the plots in those books always fascinates me.

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      November 14, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Marcy. I’m so excited about getting to hang out over at your place in a couple weeks!

  • Reply
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